Secret text messages sent by Daniel Andrews to his chief of staff about Victoria’s hotel quarantine have been released by the inquiry into the botched program.
The phone records between the Victorian premier and his right-hand woman Lissie Ratcliff were made public on Friday after additional evidence was provided to the inquiry.
The then Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles – who resigned as Victoria’s top public servant last month – has also had his phone records released by the inquiry.
Text messages between Mr Andrews and Ms Ratcliff on the evening of March 27 show him telling her to expect updates on logistics of hotel quarantine, such as rooms available, transportation and guidelines for travellers.
Secret text messages sent by Daniel Andrews to his chief of staff about Victoria’s hotel quarantine program have been released. Mr Andrews pictured addressing the media on Thursday
‘How are we going on hotels and midnight tomorrow? Do we have many flights tomorrow. Call if you need to,’ A text from Mr Andrews at 8.26pm said.
Ms Ratcliff replied: ‘I’ll have updates tonight on number of rooms, transportation, guidelines for leaving rooms, protection for workers, number of expected arrivals [and flights] for Sunday.
‘It’ll only apply to flights landing after midnight so anyone coming in during the day won’t be caught up.
‘Will get you an update as soon as it comes through.’
A summary of the March 27 national cabinet meeting by Department of Health and Human Services bureaucrat Nicole Lynch was mentioned throughout the new tranche of documents, particularly the line: ‘Enforcement by S and T governments keen for police not to babysit but called in as need (eg use private security)’.
Mr Andrews said in his sworn statement he did not take this to be a decision about private security and therefore did not pass it on.
‘Decisions of that kind are of an operational nature in which I do not play a role,’ he wrote.
Former police commissioner Graham Ashton told the inquiry it was Mr Eccles who led him to believe private security would be used.
Staff pictured at Melbourne’s Stamford Hotel quarantine facility on June 25. Ex-top Victorian civil servant Chris Eccles has also had his phone records made public
The ex-police chief’s recollection of a phone call at 1.17 pm on March 27 was detailed in a fresh sworn statement tendered to the inquiry on Friday.
It was one of a raft of documents called for by the inquiry in a final attempt to nail down who made the decision that ultimately led to Victoria’s second coronavirus wave.
Mr Ashton wrote that he and Mr Eccles spoke for 136 seconds following a meeting of the national cabinet.
‘At least part of this conversation involved Mr Eccles informing me regarding the potential use of the ADF to guard returned travellers during the transfer from their flights and the use of private security to guard them at the hotels,’ he wrote.
‘But my belief as to what